Montreal Canadiens' Top Stars and Their Best Attributes
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The Habs do feature some players who are beginning to make a name for themselves around the league. The Canadiens' success as a team last season was largely due to the play of these individuals.
The Canadiens' stars include some blossoming young talent, an underrated veteran defender and a goalie still looking to take his game to the next level.
Here are the best attributes of the Montreal Canadiens' top stars.
P.K. Subban: Slap Shot
P.K. Subban has a wicked slap shot.
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Choosing the best attribute in P.K. Subban's game is no easy task. After all, you don't win the award for being the best defenseman in the NHL because you're only good at one thing.
Subban has always been a great skater with excellent puck control. There aren't many players in the game better at taking the puck behind their own net and leading the rush into the offensive zone.
He has also improved his defensive game, to the point where he has earned coach Michel Therrien's complete trust as a top-pair, shut-down defenseman.
His physical game has always been exciting, but the 24-year-old has learned when and when not to throw a big hit as he has matured into a Norris Trophy-winning defenseman.
But when it comes to singling out P.K.'s best attribute, the conversation has to shift to his slap shot.
P.K. Subban has a cannon of a shot. A laser beam. A howitzer. The list of adjectives could go on. It may not be the hardest shot in the NHL, but what it lacks in speed is made up for in accuracy.
Subban uses his slap shot from the point better than any other defenseman in the NHL. Of his 13 goals scored last season (including playoffs), 10 came from slap shots from the blue line or slot area, as noted by Andrew Berkshire of Habs Eyes on the Prize. Seven of these came with the man advantage, as he became the focal point of the Habs' power play in the second half of the season.
Subban's slap shot was a top factor in why the Habs scored the second-most power play goals in 2013. Look for the Canadiens, and possibly Team Canada, to continue to run plays for Subban to do what he does best next season.
Andrei Markov: Offensive Vision
Andrei Markov sees the ice as well as any defenseman.
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Andrei Markov has been slowed down by two separate knee surgeries that forced him to miss 144 games between 2010-2012. Many questioned if he'd be able to play at a high level again, but Markov silenced his critics in 2013.
Markov returned to the Canadiens and played all 48 games last season, scoring 10 goals and adding 20 assists. He finished the season tied for fourth in points among defensemen. He also had more power-play goals than any other defender in the league.
Tremendous on-ice vision is what makes Markov such an offensive threat. This is especially apparent with the man advantage. Markov sees the play develop quickly and can make great passes that put his teammates in a position to score. He also knows when to shoot, and rarely do his shots get blocked.
Markov's vision can also be seen when he leads the breakout. His outlet and stretch passes are among the best in the game, and they often lead to odd-man rushes for the Canadiens' forwards.
Alex Galchenyuk: Speed and Shot
Alex Galchenyuk has excellent speed and a great shot.
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Alex Galchenyuk might not be a top-level NHL star yet, but it won't be long until he is.
The 19-year-old was taken with the third pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft and earned a roster spot with the Canadiens right out of training camp in 2013. That was a feat in itself—it takes a special talent to play for the Montreal Canadiens as a teenager.
Alex M.'s scouting report on wewantacup.com notes that Galchenyuk is blessed with an all-around game that coaches and scouts love. He has elite offensive talents and excellent defensive-zone awareness as well. But his skating and shot are what set Galchenyuk apart from other good prospects.
Galchenyuk is fast. In fact, he's so fast he actually won the fastest skating competition while participating in the NHL's Research and Development Camp back in the summer of 2011. His skating is effortless and he is tough to catch once he reaches full speed. At 6'1", 200 pounds, Galchenyuk is also big, giving him that coveted size-and-speed combination that NHL general managers love.
He also features an NHL-caliber shot. His wrist shot is among the hardest you'll ever see from a 19-year-old, and it's pretty accurate too (as Craig Anderson found out the hard way).
Galchenyuk's rookie season was one you might expect from a teenager. He struggled out of the gate, scoring just once in his first 15 games. He then scored twice in three games in late February before going another 18 games without finding the back of the net. Things seemed to click in the latter third of the season for Galchenyuk, however, and he scored six times in the Canadiens' final 12 games.
Montreal Canadiens' fans are excited to see what Alex Galchenyuk brings in his sophomore season. He has the talent to be an NHL superstar, and he could bloom sooner rather than later.
Max Pacioretty: Shot Release
Max Pacioretty has good hands and a great release.
Over the course of the past two seasons, Max Pacioretty has developed into an NHL star. The 24-year-old native of Connecticut followed up his 33-goal breakout season in 2011-12 with a 15-goal campaign in just 44 games last year.
Scouts liked to talk about Pacioretty's hands and shot when he was drafted back in 2007, and those same skills are what has made Pacioretty into a top-tier winger today.
Pacioretty has a great shot. Berkshire's breakdown of his goals shows that, of his 15 goals last season, 11 came off a forehand shot (the other four came from tip-ins and backhands). This may not come as a great surprise, but it shows that a majority of his goals come from shots, as opposed to dekes or scrambles.
Further examination of his goals proves he also has a great release. Of Pacioretty's 11 goals from forehand shots in 2013, none came via the slap shot—six were snap shots, five were wrist shots.
Max Pacioretty enters an important season in 2013-14. With a strong start to the season, he's likely a lock to help an American team expected to compete for gold at the Olympics in Sochi in 2014. He will also look to lead the Habs in scoring for the third season in a row, a feat which would further cement Pacioretty's place amongst the top-scoring wingers in the NHL today.
Carey Price: Rebound Control
Carey Price has a pretty butterfly style.
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At times, Carey Price plays like one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. On other occasions, he looks like one of the most overpaid players at his position, as Bleacher Report's Franklin Steele noted. In fact, you could argue that his inconsistency is probably his worst attribute.
When judging a player's best attribute, however, you need to look at that player when he is on top of his game. And when Carey Price is playing well, rebound control is what he does best.
On some nights, Price looks unbeatable. He seems completely in control of all shots and directs rebounds into safe areas. If there's traffic in front, the rebound gets deflected into the corner. If the slot area is clear, he kicks rebounds out. If the shot hits him high, he smothers it for a faceoff.
Carey Price has one of the most sound butterflies in the league, as illustrated by Habs blogger Trav4oilers on skyoforgoalies.com. He uses his size well and can get across the crease as fast as any goalie in the game today. Having such good technique is what allows him to have such excellent rebound control.
Price also has an above-average glove hand and handles the puck at a world-class level. He has all the tools to be a Vezina candidate as early as this season. He just needs to find a way to be on top of his game night in and night out.